Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ok...here goes one rant...sorta.

One of my friends asked me what I thought about the #1reasonwhy Twitter thread that has gained notice in the past few days. It's interesting to me that these types of threads pop up every once in a while, and then sort of fall out of notice because invariably the intertrolls bring it down one way or another.

I think that this subject matter has been an issue for a very long time. I have been developing games for six years now, and it has gotten better, but there are definite issues at hand. I will not argue with that.

However, I don't think it's just games. I think it's the tech industry in general. It's a complex issue, to be honest, and I think threads like #1reasonwhy can end up diluting it, thanks to the open forum massive quality of their inter-nature.

I feel there are a few issues at hand, that are related, but also very different in source:

One is the issue of treatment of women at the work place not just in video games, but in the tech industry in general. Coming from the tech field myself, and then working in video games, I can tell you they are both pretty similar if not the same. It's unfair to point the finger at video games alone, and I think the reason people do this is because of the nature of the product.

Another issue is the overall interest and qualifications of women in tech/video games. I handle applicant screening for the art department at my company as one of my duties, and we get less female than male applicants that are qualified, even though in art there tends to be more of a common ground, and even though the ratio within our own art department is pretty 50/50.
I don't have exact numbers for other departments, but overall there are less female applicants. Maybe as a society we need to take a look at why young women are not going into tech as much as young men.

Finally, there is the product, which can be construed as abusive to women in nature, but it could be argued (I actually think about this myself) that video games have also been responsible for introducing a gamut of strong female characters into the radar of an otherwise male-dominated video game/comic book culture:
Lara Croft who wears skimpy clothes also kicks major ass, Samus Aran who wore a giant non-gender-denominational suit for a long time, Left for Dead's Zoey who wears pretty average clothes and looks very much like the girl next door, etc.

Are video games responsible for the sexy portrayals of these women outside of the realm of the game itself? Booth babes and sexed up photo shoots are generally not the responsibility of the developer, but of the marketing department or the publisher. It could be argued that women are objectified in a lot of other fields by marketing, and that booth babes are common not just in video games but in a lot of other convention-type events (comics anyone?)

I actually think this portrayal of women in games has very little to do with being responsible for the actual treatment of women in the game development work place, and more to do with an overall social issue of product demands and expectations...and not just of video games.

My experience as a woman developer has been overall very positive, but I have definitely had a few unfortunate incidents that I've had to deal with. The main thing is when I analyze these issues, they have nothing to do with video games, as they are very similar to the issues I had to deal with in pretty much every other work environment, including non-male dominated ones. The sad reality is: women are still treated poorly, EVERYWHERE. Women still make less money than men, they still get promoted less than men, and they still have to put up with the advances of a small group of assholes that function on a primal level at the workplace (or everywhere).

I love working in video games. I am fortunate to work for a studio that has a very unusual and very positive ratio of women-to-men, and the men and women I work with are wonderful, respectful, friendly people I look forward to working with every day.

Things are changing, but change is slow. As women we have to work extra hard, and prove ourselves that much more than men, but I know we can do it, and we can participate in encouraging the next generation of girls to get into things that are nerdy and tech-y.

Anyone remember this?

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/13/tropes-vs-women-in-video-games-vs-the-internet/

This woman was threatened to be raped, murdered and had her internet identity vandalized because of her Kickstarter for a documentary video speaking of the way women are portrayed in video games.
The fact alone that her simple project received such horrific response on the internet is very telling, but the fact that she got the amount of funding she got is also telling that there is change at work out there. Glass half full, people. Glass half full.

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